Foundation Supporters of Various Backgrounds Appointed to Leadership Positions

November 26, 2013

Businesspeople, doctors, a scientist and a beauty queen are just a few of the notable titles of 13 people recently appointed to the Foundation’s leadership ranks. Their diverse qualifications and dedication to eradicating retinal diseases will help accelerate the Foundation’s mission of finding treatments and cures.

“The exceptional support of these leaders has proven their determination to advance retinal disease research,” says Bill Schmidt, the Foundation’s chief executive officer. “With their wide range of knowledge and experience, these individuals bring new and exciting skills to the fight against blindness.”

Joining the board of directors is Jonathan Steinberg, M.D., who has been involved with the Foundation since 2002. A supporter of the New Jersey Taste for Sight event, the New York City VisionWalk and the Banking on a Cure dinner, Jonathan is a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Columbia University. He and his wife, Alice Cohen, M.D., a recently appointed national trustee (see below), have two children, Rachel and Joshua, who is affected by retinitis pigmentosa, or RP.

Those appointed as national trustees include the following, in alphabetical order:

Betsy Bradley, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is affected by RP and first got involved with the Foundation when she lived with her husband, Bill, in Atlanta, where she was a 2nd grade teacher and took part in the Atlanta VisionWalk. She is now a supporter of the Triangle Blind Wine Tasting and the Triangle VisionWalk, for which she served as co-chair in 2008 and 2009. Betsy is also the daughter of board member Bruce Sawyer.

Alice Cohen, M.D., is the wife of national trustee and board member Jonathan Steinberg. Like her husband, Alice is a strong supporter of the New Jersey Taste for Sight event, the Banking on a Cure dinner and the New York City VisionWalk. She is also director of the Division of Hematology and Oncology at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.

The sons of Foundation co-founders Lulie and Gordon Gund, Grant Gund, of Weston, Massachusetts, and Zack Gund, of Concord, Massachusetts, have provided financial support to various Foundation events over the years. Most notably, they host a hockey event in Nantucket every year that raises up to $30,000 for the Foundation. Grant and Zack are both managing partners at Coppermine Capital.

Mitch Katcher, who has RP, and his wife, Anne Katcher, joined the Westchester-Fairfield VisionWalk in 2011 and later became chapter leaders. They have been instrumental in securing donations and sponsorships for Fashion Ball: Dining in the Dark, with Mitch serving on the event committee. Mitch recently retired from Deloitte Consulting, where he was a principal. Anne is recently retired from AXA Equitable, where she was a managing director. She recently founded the consulting firm Sage Sense. Gary Katcher, brother of Mitch Katcher, joined the Foundation in 2012 and played a significant role in the success of the Foundation’s 2012 and 2013 Fashion Balls. He is also co-founder and chairman of GRK Partners LP, a hedge fund in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Liz Lea is married to national trustee, board member and Foundation treasurer Haynes Lea. They have three daughters, Katherine, Mary and Lizzie, who is affected with Leber congenital amaurosis. The Leas have raised more than $2.5 million through fundraising events such as the Western Classic, the Charlotte Golf Tournament, Charlotte VisionWalk and the Slam Dunk for RP. Liz is a real estate agent for Dickens Mitchener & Associates Inc.

Abby LeBlanc works as a senior marketing specialist at HarbourVest Partners in Boston and, like her mother, Debbie, and brother, Jeremiah, is affected by RP. She has served as co-chair for several Foundation events, including the Shades of Spring gala and the Boston Wine event. She has also participated in the Boston VisionWalk since 2006.

Also known as the former Mrs. World, April Lufriu has retinitis pigmentosa, as do her two children, Brandon and Savannah. As a national spokeswoman for the Foundation, she participated in Cantor Fitzgerald’s Charity Day in 2012 and 2013 and traveled across the country promoting FFB’s mission. April also founded the Tampa Chapter and has chaired the Tampa VisionWalk five of the last six years. Her combined efforts have helped to raise significant funds for the Foundation.

Martha Steele is deputy director for the Bureau of Environmental Health at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Affected by Usher syndrome, which causes hearing and vision loss, she has helped expand the reach of the Boston Chapter, for which she serves as president. She has chaired the Boston VisionWalk four years in a row, and her team, Strides for Eagle Eyes, has raised $120,000.

Affected by Stargardt disease, Mark Valenziano chaired the 2011 and 2012 Twin Cities VisionWalks and has been co-chair of the Twin Cities Dining in the Dark the past three years. Driven by the desire to help others have a better quality of life, Mark owns Healthy Indoor Air LLC, a Minneapolis company dedicated to improving the quality of the air people breathe.